zodiacal_light: A map of Tortall (tortall)
What broke Tortall.

There's a sharp difference between SotL and later Tortall. SotL is often treated like the kink in the works, like it is what messes up canon and forces Pierce to come up with really bizarre deuterocanon that doesn't work with her own texts, but I have a problem with that view. SotL came first. Later canon should have to fit with it, not the other way 'round.

SotL had a Tortall that had a completely different culture than later Tortall, in ways that it is implausible to postulate cultural evolution in such a short time span. SotL, to my brain, had the more interesting world, a culture that didn't map to any one of our times, and that had some interesting things of its own. There seems to be no trace of slut-shaming in SotL, for example; the closest we come is Coram being mildly worried in LR after he runs into Liam and Liam remarking that no one would talk around her anyway, she's too good with a sword. For all that it would be an easy charge to make against Delia, or an expected one to make against Alanna, it never happens.

We're also shown things like a militant Goddess cult that is still not powerful enough to prevent women from having their futures decided by their fathers, and so on.

All this gets broken by later canon or deuterocanon.

It all gets broken, basically, because Pierce wants to write stories set in a world culturally much more like ours, with sexism that follows the exact same patterns ours does, and heterosexism that follows the exact same patterns ours does, and so on. And then she also decides, at the same time, to go run with the Goddess cult to the breaking point, and simultaneously postulates a world where women have a ton of rights, including the right to determine fully their own partners and even jobs.

Um.

The Goddess cult thing is just insanely ridiculous, and reads, actually, like it would fit better over in Emelan.

As for the other way, the major way, Pierce starts shattering her own canon, it really starts to seem after a while like Pierce wanted to write thinly-veiled versions of our world with a fantasy pseudomedieval gloss. Suddenly, we have to have US-style progressives and conservatives, both of whom are bang-on caricatures of progressive views of US political sides. Suddenly, we have to have a world that criticizes slut-shaming not subtly, by just not having a culture that does it, but directly, by having modern slut-shaming show up as an issue. Suddenly, we have to have awkward talks on the sleeping-with-the-boss issue. In SotL, only a certifiably insane person thought of bringing that up at all, and it's treated there like a line of attack wholly unheard of.

It almost feels - hell, forget the almost - like Pierce has systematically stripped out all the interesting bits of Tortallan culture, to make it more and more "medieval" and more and more a platform for addressing some checklist of "real-world scenarios". Hell, she even does that with the magic, taking away all the interesting unexplained bits and hammering out an unconvincing explanation for them all (oh, they're all just wild magics. humdrum stuff) and then going more and more into Standard Fantasy Territory, complete with crazy fantasy names that read like a virus-addled spellchecker autocorrected her work.

PotS is still my comfort reading, and WM sometimes is, but those feel like a completely different world from SotL, which has finally become, or perhaps always really was, my favorite Tortall series overall. I can see why Pierce wanted to tell PotS especially in the Tortall world as a contrast to SotL, but she should have kept to the damn canon she herself as created. Hell, she should have stepped off her damn soapbox before writing anything after SotL.

I do love Tortall, though I often wonder why after posts like this. I will continue buying and reading her books unless everything turns into a DotL-style scramble. But more and more, I have to separate the Tortall of TIQ/PotS/DotL and the deuterocanon from the Tortall of SotL, because more and more they are becoming just flat irreconcilable.

I really, really wish Pierce had either kept to her own canon and written different books, or set everything post-SotL in its own damn world. Or, hell, a hundred years or so in the future.

Date: 18 Jan 2011 07:48 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] q_sama
q_sama: Tortallan map (tamora pierce)
There seems to be no trace of slut-shaming in SotL

I would argue that there are *traces*, in that during the confrontation between Delia, Josiane and Alanna, Delia grabs Josiane by the arm and says that they shouldn't talk to sluts. So, while it's a completely different from what goes on in PotS, there's *something* going on there. I also think it's designed to make the reader critical of the slut-shaming (since we know that Alanna is no more promiscuous than Delia), but it's not as bad (imo) than having characters discuss it in a society that is now more vocal about it.

Er, if that makes sense.

Date: 19 Jan 2011 01:08 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] q_sama
q_sama: Tortallan map (tamora pierce)
I think my basic point with re: slut shaming still stands;

Oh, absolutely! That's why I made the point to differentiate between what the reader can infer about the accusation vs. another character coming up and saying that's wrong before it begins.

The conversation that bothers me the most is probably the discussion between Ilane and Kel about virgin nobles being treated like breeding horses. I think that's one moment where Ilane could've said "do what you want, live like a commoner" and going into the "make sure it feels right to you" realm instead of spouting Pierce's opinion about noble sex.

Tortall in SotL felt like a different society.

Absolutely. Reading these posts, and entering discussions about these issues with others since finding fandom has made that very clear to me. I used to always "see" the worlds differently in my head - even when scenes took place in the same location between series. SotL had a darkness to it that my ten-year-old brain created out of the compilation of facts. PotS and TIQ are bright and airy and clean and not like they're part of the same world.

I understand why Pierce kept her stories in the same world - especially since her publishers were urging her, in some cases. But I think starting anew would've been better for all the inconsistencies.

Date: 20 Jan 2011 10:47 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] carmarthen
carmarthen: "Would you like my hat?" (Default)
Especially because that's not what we see, especially not in SotL, where no one seems to really care that Delia or Alanna slept around.

Probably a lot of the other young noblewomen as well, since it's implied that most of Alanna's friends are sexually active, and my impression is not with servants or prostitutes. I thought that was a much more interesting take on a fantasy-medieval society than the old women-save-it-for-marriage double standard boredom.

Date: 21 Jan 2011 02:36 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] carmarthen
carmarthen: "Would you like my hat?" (Default)
Showing a world without the slut-shaming, where it shows up only in a couple throwaway lines and is treated as bizarre, gets people thinking.

I dunno, given how much Fandom Judgement I've seen of Alanna for her terrible, terrible behavior, sleeping with all of three men in her life. I think over time, showing worlds without slut-shaming may change attitudes, but one book? Readers inclined that way will fill it in for themselves, and do. Subtlety is a two-edged sword--didacticism can turn readers off, but subtlety can fly right past readers entirely. I think it's good to strike a balance between explicit and implicit commentary.

(I really hate that Kel herself participated in it. Yeah, okay, village woman enjoying the men fighting over her--not really great behavior--but I don't like that Kel came down hard on HER and not on the MEN FIGHTING. They could have exercised self-control and not fought. And then to have the woman raped later, and strongly imply that now she won't be so flirtatious...I can't fully articulate it, but it left a really bad taste in my mouth. I think part of the problem is that intellectually, Tammy thinks slut-shaming is bad, but emotionally...she kind of does it. See the repetitive flirtatious = unsympathetic theme. And so it's hard for her to show that it's bad when she doesn't entirely seem to believe it.)

Date: 21 Jan 2011 08:08 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] carmarthen
carmarthen: "Would you like my hat?" (Default)
And word, on Peliwin. I was all O.o, going - wait. This is her fault? I mean, sure, there are women who enjoy being fought over. But come on, the men chose to fight. They're not animals. And Peliwin's rape later really disturbed me, for the reasons you mention.

But that initial scene also feeds two other problems Pierce has - her Goddess cult (that's where we learn that women have total choice over their partners, and men HAVE to obey, and divorce is really easy), and her "men are completely irrational" thing that crops up from time to time. Apparently it's both impossible to stop men from sleeping with (or fighting over) a pretty woman who flirts with them (Peliwin, Varice, Delia - all are blamed by the text for the reactions men have to them) and men only ever get angry for no reason, so all male anger is bad.

It looks like the only time men are off the hook for things is when there's a girly girl to blame. Otherwise, men are on the hook for things "properly feminist" women get a pass for. That's not really coherently phrased on my part, but there's something nasty there I don't like, both about men and about girly flirty women.


Yeah, all of this. And that conversation with Kel, where she said stupid comforting things, I was--even on my second or third reread--expecting Peliwen to go throw herself in the river and provide angst for Kel. I think I'm glad she didn't, but...argh.

I want some Peliwen fic now.

Date: 22 Jan 2011 01:16 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] carmarthen
carmarthen: "Would you like my hat?" (Default)
I did like that, but there's still much more I didn't like about that little arc.

Date: 20 Jan 2011 10:45 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] carmarthen
carmarthen: "Would you like my hat?" (Default)
SotL had a darkness to it that my ten-year-old brain created out of the compilation of facts. PotS and TIQ are bright and airy and clean and not like they're part of the same world.

This so much, even when POTS in particular tries to be gritty (Lady Knight in particular).

And it's interesting, which giant honking real-world issues she decides to leave out, even as she makes Tortall more and more a veiled version of our world in medieval dress-up.

Date: 20 Jan 2011 10:40 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] carmarthen
carmarthen: "Would you like my hat?" (Default)
I almost wonder if Delia's thinking in a more medieval sense, of a woman who is slatternly (from where Delia is standing, anyway) and not keeping to her place.

Date: 20 Jan 2011 10:39 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] carmarthen
carmarthen: "Would you like my hat?" (Default)
There seems to be no trace of slut-shaming in SotL

There's also some sniping between Alanna, Delia, and Josiane in LR, although that strikes me as more accusations of nepotism than slut-shaming ("Jon just made you Champion because you screwed him!" "Oh yeah, why aren't you Prime Minister?"). In general, though, it doesn't seem to be a big part of Tortallan culture, and there doesn't really seem to be that kind of gossip about Alanna post-reveal--and it seems fairly apparent that everyone figures she and Jon were going at it during her squire years.

Suddenly, we have to have awkward talks on the sleeping-with-the-boss issue

I really, really hate that conversation. I mean, I wouldn't hate it in our world, but in Tortall? I hate it. I hate that between SOTL and POTS, virginity suddenly became important for noblewomen.

like Pierce has systematically stripped out all the interesting bits of Tortallan culture, to make it more and more "medieval" and more and more a platform for addressing some checklist of "real-world scenarios".

Yup. Ironically, also making it less interesting than the real medieval world.

and then going more and more into Standard Fantasy Territory, complete with crazy fantasy names that read like a virus-addled spellchecker autocorrected her work.

SO much irritation about this. Why did she decide weirdo fantasy names were good after all?

Date: 21 Jan 2011 02:31 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] carmarthen
carmarthen: "Would you like my hat?" (Default)
One could also argue that it's a Copper Isles thing, since Josiane's foreign. It's established in WM that Galla has a stigma about bastards, but Tortall doesn't seem to, so much (kind of makes me wonder if the Goddess's worship is REALLY that widespread in the Eastern Lands, and also what version of her people outside of Tortall worship. She seems to be worshipped in Sarain or at least the Roof, and one of Thayet's cousins is a nun, but the Saren court would have put Alanna to death if she'd been one of theirs? Hmm, what version of the Goddess does Adigun worship?).

Which I would have no problem with if the gods weren't so damnably, unarguably present. Does the Goddess not care that she's apparently being misrepresented everywhere outside of Tortall?

Date: 21 Jan 2011 08:04 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] carmarthen
carmarthen: "Would you like my hat?" (Default)
I could definitely see Tortallan views on legitimacy varying, as it's a conglomerate culture...I'm still trying to work out what I think the Hill Country is like (one thing I hate is the common assumption in fandom that every culture has "knights", from the Yamani to Sarain. I don't think most of the countries/cultures have knights in the Tortallan sense, and my mental idea of the Hill Country as not being centralized suggests a concept of knighthood closer to "Oh, you've done great service to your lord, here's a knighthood." Possibly even buyable knighthoods. They think the Ordeal thing and all that talk of chivalry is a bit goofy).

A lot of my issues with Tortall come down to its weird conflicting gender roles, which are tied up with the Goddess thing. Like, the medieval concept of chivalry came about partially as an attempt to stop knights from widespread rape. Chivalrous knights don't rape conquered women (or their own peasants. (It, uh, didn't work terribly well.) Battlefield rape seems to be a non-issue in Tortall (which would make sense to me if the Goddess cult is that socially powerful). It's like--Pierce changing the sexist base, but then assumed that some things that were intimately tied up with sexism would be the same but others wouldn't, and then pasted the sexism back on.

Date: 22 Jan 2011 01:15 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] carmarthen
carmarthen: "Would you like my hat?" (Default)
Pretty much the ONLY way to make any sort of sense of her 'verse is that a) the noblewomen are held, post-SotL, to much different and stricter standards than commoners

Yeah, which is so...not entirely plausible. I mean, yes, you get different standards for nobles and commoners in real life--but generally the most socially conservative have been the rising middle class, who want desperately to jump up into nobility and so have to be MORE respectable than the nobility. And commoners don't exist in some alternate reality. If the nobles are concerned about female chastity or whatever, some of that's going to trickle down. (Commoners marrying younger than nobles is also kind of backwards, socioeconomically. Now, it's fantasy, so I'm prepared to believe there might be something else in the mix to account for this, but you have to SHOW me what it is, else I'll wonder how commoners can afford to get married so young and why they haven't realized that 20-year-olds are better suited to bearing children and surviving than 16-year-olds.)

Date: 22 Jan 2011 01:15 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] carmarthen
carmarthen: "Would you like my hat?" (Default)
Whoops, sorry about b0rked italics.

Date: 22 Jan 2011 07:18 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] carmarthen
carmarthen: "Would you like my hat?" (Default)
*adds Kel's merchant family discussing her to list of fic ideas*

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